Besides a plain necessity and the companies which

Besides
selling a product or service, marketing plays a vital role in shaping the image
of an organisation, how people associate the organisation’s products or
services and gives people the confidence about its products. As an economical
mean of transport, railway service has become a staple in users’ lives such
that it will still be used regardless of proper marketing. Whether the rail
operator is for or not for profit, the marketing function is still critical as
it helps to build relationships between the companies and their users and also
helps to ensure that they continue using the service. In terms of people
transport, this is especially crucial when the service experiences a disruption
as affected passengers might be discouraged from taking the same service in
future for fear of potential train faults which might jeopardise their journey.

However,
this fear could be alleviated if the railway company has established a
long-standing accolade of quality and accountability which could assure the
passengers that such an incident will not happen again as the company will do
its best to investigate and resolve the issue. Without proper marketing
campaigns to build a sound reputation for the organisation, similar situations
would likely cause the organisation to lose their passenger base to competing
railway services or other modes of transport such as buses. 

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Besides
promoting the image of railway companies, marketing also helps to publicise and
inform the public of a new or improved route in the region which could expand
its passenger base, as opposed to situations where the service enters the
market without publicity. For instance, the opening of Downtown Line in
Singapore was packed with enticing perks such as free travel when one tap-in
and out along the line to encourage users to try the new route and incorporate
it into their daily commute (Straits Times, 2017).

With
multiple organisations competing to be at the top of customers’ mind and trying
to protect their market share, an organisation’s success is not only determined
by the prudent application of funds and ground-breaking technology it employs
but also by the relationship established with the customers, which is a
function of marketing. Without marketing, railway transport will remain as a
plain necessity and the companies which operate them would become lifeless
service providers as it would not matter to the users which company is
operating a particular line. A company can rise or go bust without the users’
concern or support as the only product differentiation between the firms are
the routes that they operate and the inability to retain a loyal consumer base
would evidently be detrimental to the sustainability of railways.

Ironically,
marketing is pertinent to the seemingly monopolistic railway industry as each
service provider has to compete against other rail operators as well as
indirect competitors like bus service operators and domestic flight carriers.
On top of advertising their service and branding the organisation, railway
marketing is also tasked with recognising the needs of its target audience and
establishing the demand for its own service through active customer interaction
and feedback collections.

While a
reliable service will attract users, marketing is at the centre of creating
customer loyalty and customer retention. This is evident from the case study in
Croatia and other liberalised rail transport markets, where product
differentiation and client engagement are critical in securing a foothold in
the field. Marketing in general has proved to be a successful initiative in
attracting more customers across various industries through the myriad of
promotions and campaigns to ensure that the companies stay relevant. By
securing a loyal consumer base and a steady influx of users, marketing is
consequently responsible for the railway’s increase in revenue, companies’
growth and by extension, the increase in a company’s profitability and
longevity (considering the huge amount of resources needed to operate and
maintain a railway service).

Ultimately,
every “product launch” starts and ends with marketing as the function seeks to
identify whether the customer’s needs were met after introducing the product
and how they could further bridge the gap to create a lasting demand for the
railway provider’s service. Going forward, it seems more beneficial for urban
railways to engage in marketing considering the more demanding consumer-base
and competitive environment that the industry faces. For the long-term success of railways, perhaps rail operators
should start exploring various strategies to capture their market share instead
of carrying out the usual advertising and copywriting.

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